Left: A Camel Gun. Right: The Leading Camel of a Kafila (Afghanistan), by John Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911). These two illustrations in Chapter X of Kipling's Beast and Man in India (1891) are inset into the middles of pp. 285 and 289, and show two very different roles fulfilled by camels on the subcontinent. In the first, Kipling depicts its role in war: "Camels can be utilised to carry light field-pieces" (285): he has already pointed out, just above the illustration, that over 2000 camel-guns were deployed at the battle of Sobraon in the first Anglo-Sikh war. In the second, he depicts a camel in its more usual role as a steed, and is clearly fascinated by its trappings, surmising that these might be "the beginning of the nomad industry of carpet weaving. It is perhaps not too fanciful to trace on the worsted neckband the original unit or starting-point of the carpets and "saddle-bags" which have given lessons to English upholsterers." He goes on to describe the trappings in detail:
There is not much room for variety in a narrow fillet with only black, brown, and clingy white as a colour scheme, but you may watch a long Kafila go curtseying past and find no two neckbands quite alike in the arrangement of zig-zags, diamonds, bars, and squares. These bands, with more richly coloured rugs and saddle-bags, and the homely russet splendours of worsted cords, tassels, shells, and beads, with which the leading camel is adorned, are wrought by women. [289-90]
Here as elsewhere, the mixture of close observation with both knowledge and (clearly differentiated) speculation is entertaining as well as informative, and the book went into a new edition in the following year. Elizabeth James tells us that at this point the cover design and colour was changed, making it look less Indian, and that he made some changes of his own, including one to the camel-gun picture, so that it now showed the whole camel with its rider just about to operate the gun (372-73). This is certainly more dramatic.
Scanned images, and commentary, by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned them and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Bryant, Julius, and Susan Weber, eds. John Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London. New York: Bard Graduate Centre Gallery; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2017.
James, Elizabeth. "Kipling and Book Illustration." In Bryant and Weber. 361-399.
Kipling, John Lockwood. Beast and Man in India: A Popular Sketch of Indian Animals in Their Relations with the People. London: Macmillan, 1891. Internet Archive. Contributed by the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. Web. 22 January 2017.
Created 22 January 2017